Wausau, WI – July 12, 2008. A two-run triple by Luke Stewart (UAB) put the Mallards on top by one in the eighth, but the bullpen gave it back in the bottom half and the Mallards fell to the Wisconsin Woodchucks 4-3 in Wausau. The home team has been victorious in each of the six meetings between the two teams this season. The first-place Woodchucks extend their South Division lead with the win and the Mallards drop to 3-5 in the second half. Brant Combs (Missouri State) took the loss, while Rob Currie picked up the win for Wisconsin.
It looked as if the Mallards offense would get off to another fast start after Brandon Wikoff (Illinois) doubled to the right-center gap to lead off the game, but he was stranded and Nolan Cain (LSU) held the Woodchucks hitless through the first two frames. In the third Woodchucks All-Star Bobby Pritchett set the Mallards down in order and the Woodchucks scored the first run of the night in the bottom of the third, when Max Fulginiti continued his hot hitting against the Mallards and doubled home a run on a 0-2 pitch from Cain.
The Mallards answered back in the next half-inning, thanks to a pair of Woodchucks miscues. Drew Martin (NC State) led off the inning and popped up a ball behind the plate, but it was dropped by catcher Carson Vitale and Martin had new life. He made the Woodchucks pay and drew a walk to reach base. After a couple of outs Martin came around to score when Eric Nielsen (Purdue) grounded a ball to second that was bobbled by the second baseman, allowing Nielsen to reach and Martin to tie the game.
Travis High (NC State) relived Cain in the fourth and worked through the Woodchucks one-two-three in his first inning of work. The Mallards got their second hit of the night in the fifth, a double by Rob Lyerly (Charlotte), but could do nothing with it. High again set down the Woodchucks in order in their half of the fifth, keeping the game deadlocked at 1. The sixth inning was more of the same, with the Mallards stranding a baserunner and High getting his ninth straight out.
Rob Currie entered the game in place of Pritchett in the seventh and he worked his way through the Mallards order with no trouble. In the bottom of the seventh the Woodchucks took a 2-1 lead on an RBI single up the middle by Kyle Wilson that scored Brent Weaver, who also reached on a single.
After Currie struck out the first two Mallards he faced in the top of the eighth the Mallards went to work. Martin reached base for the third time tonight with a walk and advanced to second on a single by Trent Soares (Fresno State). Stewart followed with a triple off the wall that scored Martin and Soares to put the Mallards on top 3-2.
But the one-run lead proved to be short-lived, as Brant Combs (Missouri State) entered the game and ran into trouble. He allowed Jeff Cowan to reach to start the inning, and he advanced to second on a passed ball. Fulginiti grounded out to first, moving the tying run Cowan to third. Combs walked Jonathan Kaskow and then intentionally walked Matt Gantner to load the bases with one out. After the intentional walk Combs was relieved by Kyle Rutter (NC State), who gave up a two-run double to Weaver that plated Cowan and Kaskow to put the Woodchucks back on top by one run heading into the ninth.
The Mallards did not have an answer in the ninth, as Brad Riddle entered the game and earned the save with a one-two-three inning. Tonight is the last game before the All-Star break and the league All-Stars will head to Madison for the festivities!
Tomorrow the Mallards will host an All-Star Fan Fest at 2:00 p.m. before giving way to the Home Run Derby at 4:30 p.m. The All-American Challenge will follow at 6:05 p.m., pitting local Home Talent League All-Stars versus a Military All-Star Team. The Mallards will then host the 2008 All-Star Game on Monday, July 14 at 7:05 p.m., which will be broadcast live on ESPNU at the “Duck Pond.” Tickets remain for both dates and can be purchased online at Mallardsbaseball.com or by calling the box office at 608.246.4277.